Right then, to business and the opening day of the first slam of 2014 delivered the usual mix of thrashings, marathon matches, shocks, surprises and sun, lots of sun.
Let’s start with the contenders then, and after some headlines were made in the day session things were a bit more routine once the defending champs Djokovic and Serena Williams entered the fray. The Serb had the tougher task on paper with his Slovakian opponent Lukas Lacko serving up more than just some tasty trick shots before falling in straight sets – the second decided on a breaker. Novak was guilty of a mid-match lapse, one of his few weaknesses, but looked mighty in the final third.
Williams turned up with her A-game against the wily home-girl Ashleigh Barty, something that hasn’t always been the case Down Under, power precision and consistency was enough.
Elsewhere in the men’s competition Ferrer, Berdych and Wawrinka all prevailed in straight sets – the Swiss benefiting from his opponents retirement. All looked sharp and pumped for the season ahead. Tommy Haas became the biggest male casualty – in every sense – retiring due to a shoulder injury.
Lets hope age hasn’t finally caught up with the evergreen German.
Joining Serena in the second round included usual suspects Li Na, Angelique Kerber and last year’s Wimbledon starlets Kirsten Flipkens and (Williams’ conqueror) Sabine Lisicki. But there were some upsets too as both Italian stars Vinci and Errani wilted – admittedly to stellar opposition in the form of Zheng and Goerges – and Venus Williams snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But Petra Kvitova, so strong at the end of 2013 was dumped out by little-known Luksika Kumkhum.
The BBC will have to twiddle it’s thumbs for the next few days such is the focus it applies to homegrown players with barely a side note left for others, but both Laura Robson and Heather Watson were eliminated.
A final note for one Marcos Baghdatis, who scampered his way into all of our hearts eight years ago with that magical run to the final in Melbourne, exited at the first stage for the first time. A sad sight, but at 28 and now 108 in the world it is hardly a surprise, especially against such a solid player as Denis Istomin.
Day 1 Seeds to fall
Day 1 other notable players to fall
Al’s Hero of the day – Nikolay Davydenko
Hantuchova’s at times spellbinding performance against Guernsey’s Watson is worthy of a mention but instead after coming through a gruelling five-setter i’ve picked another old name from my generation. Didn’t expect the Russian former top-tenner to triumph, Gasquet awaits him.